A towering figure in the early development of The Villages has died from pancreatic cancer.
Pete Wahl, 78, of resident of the Village of de Allende, died Thursday afternoon at Cornerstone Hospice in The Villages. His wife Nancy and daughter Molly were reportedly at his side.
He was named the first District manager of The Villages in 1995.
Wahl, who was succeeded by Janet Tutt, then Richard Baier and later current District Manager Kenny Blocker, really would set the course for the job which has been so integral to the success of The Villages.
Wahl had served as county administrator for Lake and Brevard counties. He truly took a leap of faith when he joined up with Founder Harold Schwartz and his son H. Gary Morse in those days – and he hit the ground running.
When Wahl came aboard, The Villages wasn’t much more than a fancy trailer park with several hundred mobile homes. The Villages was just beginning to embark on site-built homes across U.S. Hwy. 27/441 from the Historic Side. The golf cart bridge crossing U.S. Hwy. 27/441 was just two years old. County Road 466 was still a two-lane country road and acres upon acres of vacant land existed west of Morse Boulevard. And Spanish Springs Town Square was still mostly in the development stages.
Wahl oversaw the development of Spanish Springs one building at a time, which largely followed a vision Morse had drawn out on a napkin one night at dinner. In those days, slowly building Spanish Springs was really the only option because Morse simply didn’t have the money to build the majority of the town at once like he later did with Lake Sumter Landing and Brownwood.
Wahl, a graduate of the University of Texas, retired in 2008 after serving his final three years as manager of the Sumter Landing Community Development District. He then spent some time serving as projects director for Morse, where he held responsibilities for overseeing growth on various projects in the southern end of The Villages.
Wahl left his mark in many other ways. He came up with the idea for the Rotary Club of The Villages’ annual Chili Cook-off and he played a key role in raising money for a cancer treatment center at The Villages Regional Hospital.
He went on to work as an aide for then-state Rep. Marlene O’Toole and served as chairman of the Board of Trustees at Lake-Sumter State College. He also served on the board for The Villages Charter School.